Approaching the Dharma Like Children

An Excerpt from a teaching called Our Motivation Is For Those Who Have Hopes of Us by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

I often make prayers that all of us will approach the Dharma like children.  Because when we hold onto our own minds, our own self image, our intellectual prowess, we lose something.   Our minds become hard.  It’s especially important for long-time Dharma practitioners to approach the Dharma like children, because we get the idea that we don’t have to check on ourselves.  We don’t have to examine our minds anymore.  We don’t have to really look inside and see what’s happening.  Then we dry up.  We lose it.

If we approach the Dharma like children, we can remember the first moment we met Dharma, how it came to be important to us, how it answered our questions, and how it led us to make certain decisions.  On what did we base our turning toward Dharma?  What were the realizations that we had?  Our answers to these basic questions are still important; they should still motivate us.

We always have mixed motivation for approaching the Dharma.  What we forget is that our motivation absolutely sets the pace.  It plows the ground in which the seed will be laid.  Those who have the most trouble keeping their motivation pure and practicing accordingly seem to be those who have been practicing the longest.  Because we’ve been practicing for a long time, we think surely we’ve got it by now.  We can just jump right in and do it.  We tend to forget that every day of our lives, as practitioners, we need to go back through the same process we experienced in the beginning when we tried to turn our minds completely toward the Dharma.  The decisions that we made, the view that we had, the understandings that we came to, those have to be realized again and again and again.  We have to examine anew every day the faults of cyclic existence.  We have to examine what we’re up against.

In terms of self-examination, new practitioners have an advantage.  They are already looking at their motivation.  They have to, because they don’t know why they should become practitioners.  They don’t really understand the faults of cyclic existence.  They’re going through a process that’s very raw, very new.  It’s right on the surface.  It’s achingly important to them.  They know they’ve got to establish themselves firmly, and so they think about these matters continually.  They examine cyclic existence, even having thoughts like, “Isn’t it true that everyone you know and everyone you love will die?  Isn’t it true that everyone so far has died?  Therefore, the life that we know is utterly impermanent.  Isn’t it true that every material object that has ever made you happy has been impermanent?  Isn’t it true that you cannot count on relationships — that they, too, are impermanent?  Isn’t it true that you cannot count on any single condition, including your own appearance, your own health, your own psychological state?”

Even when you feel on top of it, even when you feel you’ve aced it, when you feel you’ve got the world right in the palm of your hand, you know that little pancake is surely going to flip right over!  We have to think like this constantly.  In the beginning we thought like that.  But Dharma practitioners who are somewhat experienced, who have some teaching under their belt, who feel they have continued on the path for some time, who feel a certain degree of confidence (if not false bravado) — these Dharma practitioners forget.  We don’t notice that we are not practicing from the depth of our being, that we are not practicing from our heart.  “Now we’re experienced in Dharma,” we say.  “We can dress like Dharma people, look like Dharma people, and we can write down Dharma words.”

But how important are these things if the mind remains hard as horn?  How important are these things if the content of the mindstream remains unchanging?  Do you think that wearing Dharma clothes and doing the Dharma dance can be important for you if the heart doesn’t change?  Absolutely not.

Unfortunately, when we approach Dharma teachings, we tend to collect them.  Like pretty things.  Like treasures.  And then not understanding the treasures, we put them on a shelf and we admire them and say, “Oh, I’ve got a hundred treasures, and that means something about me.”  But if you are not changing to the depth of your being, and if your motivation is not right, you can have a million treasures and it won’t mean anything about you except that you have missed the point.

What is the motivation you should have when you approach the teachings?  The lamas tell us again and again.  It’s Bodhicitta.  You should think, “Thus for the benefit of sentient beings, I will practice accordingly.”  And only for the benefit of sentient beings, because the value of the Dharma is that it can produce the end of suffering — a promise that Lord Buddha himself made.  If we practice sincerely we ourselves can be of some benefit to those that suffer.  And eventually we can return in a Nirmanakaya form to urge others toward enlightenment or to directly give them the teachings.

You might as well not be a practitioner if you have not yourself looked at the world and seen the suffering there and said ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!  There is too much hunger, too much war, too much suffering, too much ignorance, too much hatred, and too many people who do not understand the infallible law of cause and effect.  It doesn’t matter if you are a long-time practitioner or even a monk or a nun.  If Bodhicitta is not your primary motivation every time you hear a word of Dharma, read a word of Dharma, or even see an image associated with the Dharma, you have missed the point, and the blessing will not ripen in your mindstream.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

What You Can Do

White Tara
White Tara
From The Spiritual Path:  A Collection of Teachings by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

There are no sugar daddies in this world. You cannot be the conquering hero, the savior, because you cannot conquer someone else’s mind. Each of us must purify and conquer the hatred, greed, and ignorance we hold in our own minds. No one can do it for anyone else. You can however, liberate your own mind from all egocentricity. You can follow the Buddha’s teaching and take a vow as a Bodhisattva to eliminate all poisons from your mind until the very idea of self-nature is abandoned. You can decide to liberate yourself from all desire. And you can promise to return again and again in any form necessary to help sentient beings pull themselves out of endless suffering. As part of every practice you will say: “May I attain liberation in order to benefit beings.” The compassionate motivation to be of true benefit provides us with the strength to persevere until we ourselves are awake, until we have completely transformed or purged even the tiniest seeds of poison from our minds. The motivation to be a savior has no lasting value. It requires feedback, or “warm fuzzies.” You must get beyond that need. Your love should not depend on feedback.

How can you develop love which sustains itself? How can you cultivate a fire that burns self-sustaining wood? That fire is based on the courage to understand. If your mind has deepened to the extent that you can no longer bear to be idle, knowing the profound despair of all those beings who revolve in endless cycles of suffering—you can become truly committed. Then you can begin to renounce your own causes of suffering.

Until you reach supreme Buddhahood, you must continue courageously to develop the mind of compassion at every moment. You must aspire to be of true and lasting benefit. You must offer yourself again and again. The prayer of St. Francis, “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace,” is a good example of the aspiration of a Western Bodhisattva. Eventually, your commitment may take the form of saying: “Let me be reborn in whatever form necessary, under whatever conditions, so that beings might not suffer. If there is a need for food, let me return as food. If there is a need for shade, let me return as a tree. If there is a need for a path, let me return as a teacher. If there is a need for love, let me return as arms.”

Your job then is to purify your mind through strenuous activity. The path of Dharma is difficult. Any path that leads to enlightenment will be strenuous because enlightenment is a long way from here. You are not after a psychological “Aha!” You are aspiring to the state of Buddhahood. Your first thought should be that suffering must end. Your only concern should be that sentient beings achieve liberation.

There is a profound and simple practice that anyone can do to develop this great compassion. It turns ordinary activity into vehicles for extraordinary love. When you awake in the morning, think: “May all beings rise from the state of ignorance and be liberated until there is no more suffering.” As you brush your teeth and bathe, think: “May the suffering and seeds of suffering be washed from the minds of all beings.” Or: “May all beings be showered with the blessings of a virtuous path.” As you enter a door: “May all beings enter the door to a supreme vehicle and finally walk through the door of liberation.” Everything you do should have meaning in this way. Your entire life should be understood as a vehicle for practice.

You should dedicate all your virtuous activity, no matter how small, to the liberation of all beings. Learn to dedicate everything you do, everything. Train yourself to the point that this aspiration is constant. Once your motivation is firm, you can begin training in actual practices, in practical compassion. If you have decided to accept and follow the Buddha’s teachings, you will begin the actual practice of Dharma. If you choose not to be a Buddhist, you must still find a way to purify hatred, greed, and ignorance from your mind and the minds of others. Free of these poisons, you can become awakened; in other words, you can position yourself to be of true benefit to others.

A word of caution: some practitioners take solemn vows and make vast aspirational prayers, but then they turn around and act unkindly to others. As His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche has suggested, practicing Dharma without kindness is like trying to get light from the painting of a lamp.

Beware also of what I call “idiot compassion.” Do you know a needy or troubled person, someone who is psychologically or emotionally disrupted? We often try to give such people what they say they need. This only increases their dependency. It gives them an opportunity to increase the garbage in their minds and lives. Sometimes compassion must be harsh. In Vajrayana, there are at least as many wrathful forms of the Buddhas as peaceful ones. Sometimes compassion must take a wrathful form. If you are pure in your motivation, you will know what to do. You will not get hooked on idiot compassion. It feels good to make others feel good. But feeling good does not always help.

If you can do anything to ease or end the suffering of beings, do it. But understand that these remedies are only temporary. Consider that your power is limited by the condition of your mind. Even though you have the karma to practice—which is very fortunate—you are still an ordinary sentient being. The Buddha, however, embodies the fully awakened mind. He does not experience the confusion or delusion arising from the belief in self. His enlightened intention is powerful in a way that yours cannot be. Despite your good intentions and efforts, if you constantly experience confusion and desire within your mindstream, you can be of little help. The best way to end the suffering of sentient beings is to liberate your mind from the causes of suffering. For if you become a realized Buddha and are then incarnated or experience rebirth in an emanation form, you can offer the means to accomplish Dharma by offering the blessing of a complete path leading to liberation. To follow the Buddha’s path requires a vast amount of merit and virtue, as well as a great deal of compassion, discipline, courage, and unselfishness. The path is arduous. To achieve the great result of Buddhahood requires great effort. But truly, there is no end to suffering except the cessation of desire. The only ultimately useful way to spend this precious human life is to attain enlightenment. You must consider from the depth of your heart that the aim of attaining enlightenment is not only to accomplish one’s own purpose, but also the purpose of others. When you have seen that all sentient beings endure needless suffering, when you cannot bear even the thought of their condition and are determined to bring about its end, you are ready for Dharma.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Climbing the Mountain

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Marrying a Spiritual Life with Western Culture”

As many of you know, I like to climb the same mountain that you like to climb—the mountain of wisdom or understanding—so that we can get to the top and really have the full vista of understanding.  I find it’s best to climb the mountain, not in a linear way, but in a way that opens up to us true meaning on a conceptual level. It’s a good thing to climb that mountain from every possible angle you can think of because on each side there will be a different experience of going up the mountain. One can truly understand the mountain by moving in those various ways as opposed to having only one narrow means of approach.

In order to broaden and to deepen, then, one has to have the intention to really know and understand more deeply, so that Dharma will be real and focused and meaningful and will carry weight in one’s life. That’s what I’d like to talk about today. In order to do so, I’d like to talk about where we’re coming from and how our culture is different from a culture in which the Buddha naturally appeared and naturally emanated and naturally gave rise to certain teachings. The Buddha did not appear in Missouri—not in the way we understand.  Although in truth the Buddha is everywhere in Missouri, the historical Buddha did not appear in Missouri or Indiana or Brooklyn, not in the same way.  The original teachings, the path of Dharma that we practice, were brought to us by Lord Buddha himself.

The Dharma began in India in a culture that is very different from ours. It’s where Lord Buddha appeared. Even if it is not the most potent religion in India now, it still has had some effect on shaping and forming that culture. Here in America there are religious factors that have shaped our culture, but they are different.

So I would like to examine some of the ways in which the cultures are different, just briefly enough to have a certain idea that we can examine for ourselves. The best thing to do is to look at these cultures today, with just an idea of where they came from and how they progressed. Culture in America today is materialistically oriented. We are a culture of attainers. We accumulate things. We are given a definition of success that is handed down from generation to generation and, oddly enough, it has more to do with substance than it has to do with spirit, more to do with material gain or loss than it ever has to do with joy. Joy—what a concept!

When we are coming up, we are prepared and schooled to accomplish things that have to do with getting stuff—even if we study to become something that seems to be non-materialistically oriented, such as, for instance, a social worker. You would think that a social worker would be looking at our culture with different eyes.  You would think that a social worker would be asking, “Well, what are these social factors?  How can we organize them into something that is meaningful and deep for us? How can we express within our culture the gamut of human expressions? How can we integrate it? How can we make it work for us? How can we discard those things that do not work for society?” Yes, that is some of the training of a social worker. But why does somebody become a social worker?  And how do we approach that kind of thing? Well, we always think about how the job market is doing: “When I get out of school after I learn all of this, will I really be able to get a job?” We think of ourselves as having an office, and we think of ourselves as having that little square on the office door that says you are somebody. Then we think about whether that would be a really profitable occupation. So even if we were to approach something that could, by its nature, be fundamentally non-materialistic, we approach it from a materialistic point of view.

That’s one thing that is interesting and unique about our culture. It is so all-pervasive that it’s invisible, and you don’t really notice it until you go to other places. If you really want to learn something about your culture, leave it and come back. If mainstream America does not have that kind of experience, they cannot really see very well what the factors are. It’s more difficult. So to leave one’s culture and have another taste or another experience gives one a sense of comparison.

We approach everything in a collecting or accumulating way, in a materialistic way. We measure success by material substance.  Nobody’s parents tried to raise a great mystic because you wouldn’t do that to your kid in our society. You see what I’m saying?  You want to prevent your kid from the dark night of the soul.  You want to prevent your kid from the ambiguous, vague, cloudy, uncharted waters of mysticism.  You want your kid to be on the straight and narrow.  They know where to get a loaf of bread.  They know how to put some butter on it.  They know how to eat it.  They know how to feed it to their kids.  They know how to buy a car—that kind of thing.  You want your kid to be prepared for that.  You do not raise a mystic.  A mystic is something you have to contend with in our society.  It is an avocation that is fraught with suffering.

Now why is that?  Well, partially because a mystic goes into a very deep sense of connection.  In order to do that, the mystic has to plow through issues or plow through whatever it is that one plows through.  The other reason why being a mystic is so darn painful is because no one has any respect for that kind of thing.  A mystic in our society probably is a dreamer or a ne’er-do-well who can’t dress, who has no sense of self whatsoever, is socially inappropriate, can’t figure out how to catch a cab. Or maybe a mystic is someone who is depressed, possibly should be on Prozac. These are the kind of things that we associate with a mystic’s life and that is why nobody has ever been encouraged to be like that. The idea of really profound, deep mysticism scares the patooties out of us.

But in another culture where that kind of ideal is held up as being something pure, something wonderful, something significant, one’s experience regarding mysticism is entirely different. There is a dignity and nobility about it. There is a sense that this is a worthwhile occupation. There is definitely less fear of having the freedom to utilize one’s life as a vehicle for true deep mysticism and spirituality. One of the reasons why it’s more comfortable and easier to get connected to it is because one isn’t socially ostracized.

Now the great thing about being a mystic in America is that, once you get to the point where you’re really good at it and somebody finds you and you can market it—maybe write a book or two, maybe sell something that you’ve given rise to—then you can be a success.  Mystics in our society can also be successful after they’re dead. I really don’t know why. If any of you know why, tell me. But while we’re alive, we don’t have too much hope.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved


Discernment: Taking the Time to Examine the Spiritual Path

The following is an excerpt from a public talk given by His Holiness Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok:

When we think about the validity of religions—in terms of traditions, in terms of sciences internal and external, and in terms of pith essential pointing out instructions—there is no religion that equals that of Buddhism.  At this time there is no opportunity to really go into it; but in terms of the validity of the tradition which goes back for thousands of years and is documented in pechas, or scriptures, which are available at this present time, if one were really to investigate the qualities of the Buddha’s path, it is something quite extraordinary and unequalled by any other religion.  I would be more than happy to explain every single reason why in absolute detail, but there wouldn’t be time for that today, nor would there be time in the days that I have here, and you probably would become quite bored with listening to it.  So we’ll leave it at that, but please understand that these points are fully documented in the scriptures that we have available to us which date back some thousands of years.

Because of my own qualifications and so forth, at this time I can tell you all that I am a practitioner of the Buddhist religion. I am a Buddhist, and yet I can assure you that at no time in my life have I ever felt a sense of attachment to Buddhism because that is my own religion, nor have I ever felt a sense of aversion to any other religion because it was not the religion that I specifically pursue.  So please do not feel that I have any partial attitude towards my own tradition or a biased attitude towards any other tradition being inferior to it because I never have felt this way.  However, for a very long period of time I have examined not only the Buddhist religion but many other religions, and Buddhism, as practiced in the land of Tibet, is practiced according to three great lineages or rivers of this tradition which have come down over the centuries from India, China and Tibet.  Maybe many of you have heard of the Panchen Rinpoche who asked me to be personally responsible for examining the lineages and updating them and correcting any sort of discrepancies that may occur in present times.  Due to that I spent a lot of time going into further examinations of the traditions, and I came to the conclusion that the path of Buddhism is absolutely unequalled by any other.  It is absolutely superior.

Therefore I would encourage each and every one of you to carefully examine the spiritual path that you are involved in to make sure that you have not made any mistake. If you don’t examine your spiritual path and you just sort of mindlessly enter into a tradition which has no validity or true source, this is what is called delusion, ignorance. We Tibetans have a saying, “Don’t be like a dog.” If you put fresh lungs in front of a dog, the dog will just devour those lungs without even thinking for a moment, will just scarf them down.  Don’t be like this in terms of pursuing a spiritual tradition.  One should be very careful to examine in minute detail. And once one has found out for oneself through that process of analytical investigation that this is a true path and a path that is valid and has a true origin, then one can enter.  But please don’t just aimlessly enter a spiritual path without thinking.



The House is On Fire

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Take Control of Your Life”

The Buddha teaches us tenderly and gently, as though we were his own children.  There’s a story about a king who had many children. He loved his children dearly, but they were children, you know, children involved with children things, bright shiny play objects and things that make them happy.  So the father left the children, hopefully in good care; he had to go off and do something in his kingdom (I think I’m telling the story right, I hope so. Om Benzar Satto Hung. So he goes away for a while and when he comes back to his house, his house is on fire. It’s a big house and his children don’t even realize it.  The children are comfortably asleep in their little children beds.  The king is outside. He can’t get to his children and he’s hollering, “Come out children. Hurry up. Get out of that burning house now. Quick wake up. Run.”  The kids, they’re not used to being in trouble.  They’re the king’s children.  They’re used to being safe; and they have that habit of being safe in their beds so they’re not worried about anything.  They hear somebody shouting, but they just turn over in their covers and go back to sleep.

The king becomes frantic. They’re his children!  So he says, “Children come out now or I’ll beat you with a stick! Come out or I’ll go in there and I’ll just beat you with a stick and knock your heads off.  So come out right now.”  And the kids go, “Oh, that’s dad.  You know, he’s not really going to beat us with a stick, because we’re the king’s kids. He’s just saying that, so we’re not too worried about it.”  And so the kids get out of their beds and they start playing with their toys. The king is making so much noise, and they’re in the back room and they’re just playing with their little toys, preoccupied, you know, the way we are, and playing with little things.  And then the king goes, “Children, I have beautiful toys for you out here.  Treasures.  Beautiful things.  I have a grand elephant for you to ride.  I have a whole herd of horses for you to enjoy.  I have beautiful umbrellas and shiny jewels and so many objects for you to come and play with.”  Naturally, the kids are attracted by that and go running out of the house. At which time the father, being part Italian goes, “Aye!”  (That would have been me.  That’s not what the father did.)  The father embraced his children and said, “Oh I’m sorry I had to lie to you.  I’m sorry I had to promise you things.  I’m sorry I had to threaten you.  But see, your house is burning.”

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Dharma

The following is from a series of tweets by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo:

The Dharma is as vast as samsara, and is also as stable, as long as there is samsara there will also be Dharma.

As long as there is Dharma there will also be Samsara, because the Dharma is natural, uncontrived and would not exist without Samsara.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Why Practice Dharma?

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Stabilizing the Mind”

Do you really understand why you are practicing Buddhism?

Ultimately, when you come to understand what the Buddha and all the great lamas have taught, you will come to understand that it basically boils down to the fact that all sentient beings are suffering, that desire is the cause of suffering, that there is an end to suffering, and that end is enlightenment.  There are different ways that you can attain enlightenment, but they all have to do with ending attachment and desire in the mindstream.  They have to do with realizing that one’s nature is not the same as the conceptual proliferations that we live with, the desire that we live with, and the ego that we perceive as ourselves.  I really think that once you understand enough so that you can look at your life – with all its emotional highs and lows – and realize that it is impermanent, that you’re just riding on your own concepts and that by doing that you can’t make your mind stable enough to break free of the compulsion to revolve in cyclic existence for eons and eons that awareness becomes the taskmaster.  That realization becomes the teacher.

If you don’t realize that circumstances are impermanent, if you’re practicing because you have some crazy idea that you’re going to be a great being some day or that you’re going to triumph in the end, and that it’s all about self and self-cherishing, if you have some romantic notion about ordination or about practicing at all, you won’t be stable in your practice.  Understanding the teachings about impermanence is the stabilizer, the real teacher.  Understanding from the depth of your heart that desire really is the cause of suffering is the taskmaster.  Looking at your mind in some stable way so that you can understand that the mind just floats helplessly, constantly, on its own concepts, whichever way the concepts go, up or down, and that these concepts are the cause for suffering and that there’s no lasting happiness in them, gives you a firm foundation.  It is then that you understand why you practice, and although the circumstances of your life may change, you will never turn away from practice.  You may go to work or you may stay home; you may have children or you may not; you may take robes or you may not. Whatever the circumstances are of your life, as long as you know these things, you will remain firm.  Your infatuation with the culture, with the music, with the color, with the ritual of Tibetan Buddhism will never be enough.  You have to understand the heart of the Buddha’s teaching.  You have to understand the value of compassion.  You have to understand how important it is to end suffering and what the means are to end suffering in order to stay with the Dharma, in order to be stable and safe in the Dharma.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

I Choose Enlightenment

An excerpt from a teaching called How Buddhists Think by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

People ask: “In your tradition, is Buddha like God?”  No, Buddha is not like God.  “Is Guru Rinpoche God?”  No, Guru Rinpoche is not God.  “Well, what do you call God in your tradition?”  We don’t call anything God.  There are gods, but they are not the goal.  Westerners try to find a way around that, saying something like, “All right, then what is the goal?” I tell them, “Enlightenment.”  They reply, “Okay, then Enlightenment is God.”  No, it’s not. The goal is not anything as personalized and externalized as that.  There is no “other.”  The moment we are caught up in “self and other,” we have lost the essential Nature.  We are fixated, stuck in duality.

This is about Awakening, which is the pacification of such fixation.  You must understand the fundamental distinction between Buddhism and Western thinking––whether you are considering beginning the Path or are already a practioner. You must understand this difference, so that you will know what your true objects of refuge are.

The statement “I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the Dharma, and I take refuge in the Sangha” is an essential element throughout your practice of the Buddha’s teaching.  What does this statement mean?  It means you have looked at the faults of cyclic existence, and you have seen that it produces no real happiness.  You have learned that the Buddha said there is a cessation of suffering, this cessation is Enlightenment, and it is also the cessation of desire.  So you have decided to go for Enlightenment.  That means you have to really understand the faults of cyclic existence––even if these ideas are difficult to swallow.  It’s like taking a medicine that tastes bad until you get used to it.  It is like that in the beginning.

Having decided to take this medicine, you look at those who deliver it.  We look to the Buddha, and this includes all those who have attained Buddhahood, not just the historical Shakyamuni Buddha.  We look to the Dharma, which is the revelation or teaching brought forth from the mind of Enlightenment.  And we look to the Sangha, the spiritual community to which we belong.  It is the Sangha who are responsible for treasuring and propagating the teachings.

In the Vajrayana tradition, we also say, “I take refuge in the Lama,” who is considered representative of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.  Without the Lamas, you would not hear the Buddha’s teachings.  And without the Lamas, there would be no Sangha.

When you say you take refuge in all of these, what you are saying is: “I choose Enlightenment.  I choose the cessation of suffering.”  You move away from the faults of cyclic existence, and you remain focused on the ultimate goal.

In a deeper sense, however, you must understand that you are ultimately taking refuge in Enlightenment itself.  You must understand it as both the Path and the intrinsic Nature.  So you are taking refuge in the Nature of your own mind.  If you understand this thoroughly, you can never be duped.  But you do have to work very diligently and with discipline towards the goal.

The method is very technical, very involved. It isn’t easy because it must cut through aeons of compulsive absorption in self-nature.  It must cut like a knife!  It must be powerful––and it is powerful.  You have to think of Dharma that way.  The technology has to be strong––and real.  You can’t just talk about it.   There is work to be done!

Although it is strong, the technology is very flexible.  You need not be afraid.  You will not be forced to go any deeper than you want to go.  You have the right to practice gently.  You will still be accumulating causes for a future incarnation as a human with these auspicious conditions, and then you will be able to practice well and dilligently.

There are people who only do very small, very gentle practice.  And that’s fine.  There is a large tradition of that in the Buddha Dharma.  There are also people who are more deeply involved, though in a mediocre way.  They practice an hour or so a day.  They do a good job, and they’re faithful, and that’s it.  Then there are people who practice many hours each day.  They continually try to propagate the Teaching, and they work very hard.  So you have a choice. You can determine the level of your involvement.


© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

To download the complete teaching, click here and scroll down to How Buddhists Think

Understanding the Nightmare – by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche on “Meditation” reprinted with permission from Palyul Ling International:

And there are many, many beings that don’t know much about Buddha or Enlightenment or the Dharma teachings or liberation. They really don’t have any idea of such things. Even with all the explanations we could find in these Dharma teachings, and even though so many lamas and other qualified teachers give these teachings, still one might think that these teachings are just myths. And so you can’t truly accept them or believe in the absolute reality.

Everything is based on what is called the Law of Karma which is the actions that we do, the causes and conditions we create ourselves. Furthermore there is a Law of Karma which is known as the Collective Karma, the actions, causes and conditions we create together. There is no way we can change ourselves other than understanding Karma. Moreover, when one cannot understand all these deeper things, then one thinks that these things do not really exist.

When the lamas and the many other qualified teachers¹ teach on the sufferings of Samsara, of course it is not really nice to hear and then one feels like, “I don´t want to hear these kinds of teachings.” Certain people when lama gives these teachings on suffering even say, “I’m not interested to listen about the sufferings of Samsara. This lama doesn’t seem like he can give out good teachings!” These people prefer to just express their own ideas.

However, when taught by a qualified lama, it is indeed the Dharma, the truth. These teachings about the nature of Samsara and the reality of the faults of Samsara have been taught by all the Enlightened Beings such as Shakyamuni Buddha. The Enlightened Beings, the Buddhas, all gave these teachings because if we could just understand the nature of Samsara, we could then move on to the actual practices through which we could purify our obscurations. We could have the ultimate realization through which we achieve peace and happiness, and through that we could manifest ourselves to benefit all other sentient beings in Samsara. For that purpose Buddha gave all these teachings. It is not that Buddha wanted to be famous and so gave these teachings, nor was the Buddha showing off his skills in teaching, nor was he explaining things to us so that we would become frightened. These teachings are mainly about how all sentient beings can believe and act to attain complete Enlightenment, to liberate themselves from the sufferings of Samsara. So you see, Buddha gave these teachings with great compassion.

Take the example of a having a nightmare. Within such dreams, no matter what you do, you still cannot escape the scary feeling of a nightmare until you wake up. At the same moment, someone who is awake and watching beside the bed, can see that you are having a dream. We can understand something of the nature of Samsara from this dream example. While we are in Samsara experiencing all different kinds of sufferings, it is exactly like somebody who is having a nightmare.

His Holiness Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok on Dharma in the West

The following is an excerpt from a public talk given by His Holiness Jigme Phuntsok:

As we begin here this afternoon, I would like to mention a little bit about the great deeds of our sole guide and protector, Lord Buddha Shakyamuni, who before he became the Buddha initially gave rise to the awakened mind, the Bodhicitta, after which he worked for countless aeons to accumulate merit, finally culminating in his enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya, India.  Then 49 days later, for the benefit of all those gods and human beings and many others who would benefit indefinitely in future times as well, he turned the Wheel of the Dharma for the first time to bring the precious and holy Dharma into the world.  Now, in fact, this is the auspicious day which commemorates the first turning of the Wheel of the Dharma, and because of that I feel that all of the outer, inner and secret omens have come together to make this a most auspicious occasion.

Also at this time, on this fully endowed occasion, in this world the greatest country that exists, the most sublime, the most exalted country in terms of fame and freedom and glory which is unequalled by any other, is the United States of America.  Today for the first time I find myself in the capital city of this great land teaching the Dharma, and I am filled with joy.  Furthermore there are three reasons why I am filled with joy. I feel that the leaders of this great land, who are actually the leaders of the world, are men and women who are concerned with bringing peace to this world and establishing the beings of this world in bliss and happiness. Towards this pursuit, they work effortlessly because they have the noble qualities and the abilities and the intelligence to actually make this come about.  So I feel that they are here close to us, and this is the first reason why I feel a sense of joy: knowing that leaders such as this are in this vicinity.

The second reason I am filled with joy is because the general population of the human beings who live here in the United States of America are people who are endowed with a great amount of power and a great amount of material wealth.  Just by the fact that they live in this country they also have freedom—freedom of choice and human rights.  The condition is fully endowed. And when I think about all the people of this country having such auspicious and wondrous conditions, it is a great marvel to me, which makes me very glad.

Thirdly, the environment of this place, the particular endowment of the external environment, is that it is quite beautiful.  There are beautiful rolling hills and forests, and although it is of cyclic existence, it seems to be somewhat like a celestial realm, a god’s realm, rather than an ordinary city.  To see such a beautiful place as it is, I also feel great joy.

I had heard about this place before in Asia where I live, and it’s not until today that I actually come here. Now that I’ve really come and I am able to see for myself just how fully endowed it really is, that all the things that I heard are actually true and inconceivable, truly, then I feel even more joyful.

Now, we are Tibetan Buddhists, and in Tibet there are many traditions of Buddhism. Amongst them is the great Palyul tradition, the founder of which was the Vidyadhara Kunzang Sherab.  Kunzang Sherab’s sister was the great dakini, Ahkön Lhamo, and she was very important in helping to establish and uphold the Palyul tradition at the time when it was first initiated in the land of Tibet.  The great omniscient mind of primordial wisdom, His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, is the one who recognized her, who lives here in this land , in this incarnation, , I am especially happy to find her so well, in good health and so happy.  To meet her here at this time gives me a great amount of joy.

As for all of the rest of you, the assembly of disciples, it is clear to me that you have very strong faith in the Buddhadharma, and this is also something that is very wonderful.  You see, in Tibet there are many thousands of students who have been training in Dharma for many years, so it is not difficult for them to have faith and devotion, but here it is something quite extraordinary because this is not a Buddhist country.  It is clear to me because of the kindness of Ahkön Lhamo who has brought many of you to the path of Dharma that this is why you have made this connection and this is why your faith is so strong at this time.  I am very happy to see how this connection has been made and to see how the Dharma is flourishing here due to her kindness.

Especially too, here in the United States of America, with His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the leader, many other great lamas have come to this land, have stayed here for long periods of time and have given the Dharma teachings extensively.  I visited some of those places at this time,  however, the Dharma center of Ahkön Lhamo is different.  I haven’t seen or felt any other place like it.  That is because in Ahkön Lhamo’s center there are many ordained Sangha members.  To see the robes of the ordained is something that brings me tremendous joy—to see how the Sangha, or the ordained community, has been established in the center.  So, in particular, due to having seen the Sangha community flourishing in this way, I am extremely happy.

Generally speaking, in whatever country the Dharma may become established, it is very important for there to be a combination of the fully ordained, the partially ordained and the lay householders as a gathering of what we call the community of the Sangha.  If you have just only the lay community and no fully or partially ordained community, it is incomplete, and vice versa.  To have all of the different categories of holders of the Pratimoksha precepts together maintaining the Sangha community, it is considered to be fully endowed and complete, and that is what I see here in this center.

In particular, the category of ordination known as getsul, or novice, which of course includes the fully ordained, means those who have renounced the ordinary life of a lay person and who have taken on the life of an ordained practitioner.  Now this status is something extremely important for the survival of Buddhism in any country at any time.  This is something quite different from those who are called ngakpa, or mantra precept holders, who have no ordination according to the Pratimoksha per se.  It is different because the doctrine can completely decline and vanish, and has over the course of time completely declined and vanished in places where there are only those holding the mantra precepts.  In order for the survival of Buddhism to be assured anywhere in the world at any time so that it will always be flourishing, it is totally dependent upon the survival of the ordained Sangha.

Also as well in terms of the survival and the propagation of the Doctrine following this point of the survival of those who hold the Pratimoksha precepts, particularly that of full ordination, there is a prophecy from Lord Buddha which states that for 500 years occurring in ten successive stages of time, the Doctrine will increase and be propagated in the regions of the world.  Now there are other prophecies that have to do with the land of Tibet and the Doctrine spreading to the north and surviving only in the north and then later going to the west and surviving in the western countries.  According to this prophecy about the survival in the north, this refers to Tibet, which is the northern Snow Land of Tibet, the northern region of the world, and so there, of course, the lineage of ordination has propagated and survived.  Then also according to the prophecy that it would spread into the west, that seems to indicate the western world, not necessarily western Asia.  So when we look at the world in general and see now how in fact the lineages of ordination are moving into the western lands, then we can see how this prophecy is actually coming to pass.  This is also something to rejoice about.

Henceforth, in general, because of Ahkön Lhamo’s efforts, the Doctrine is being established in this place, and also the lineage of ordination, which I will also pray, I do pray now and I will continue to pray to be ever increasing, to always be fully endowed, and that due to this there may always be peace and happiness for all the people of this place.